The Verification Process in Rock Journalism

A press release comes through... Is this a case of copy and paste? STOP and THINK
A press release comes through… Is this a case of copy and paste?

We all know that feeling.

It’s late and you’re very tired. You have just deleted a shed-load of unsolicited mail from your inbox. But one press release stands out. Perhaps the band’s name rings a bell. And the photo makes you smile. Maybe you are persuaded by the subject line that fools you into thinking that “these guys are the next Zeppelin” or “the next Biffy Clyro.”

Is this a case of copy and paste?

Hopefully you do not want to copy and paste this press release [especially in the state it is right now] and post it to your site.

Hopefully, you will want to go through the rigours of quality journalism before your write YOUR OWN carefully handcrafted story.

Yes, I know that you’re tired. But if the music is any good, then your readers ought to be able to read the best report you can possibly manage.

1: Question the Process

Ask yourself, how did you come by this story?

  • If you had it sent to your mail box, was it sent by a trusted & recognized source?
  • Has this music already been evaluated and assessed by a person you trust?
  • Does the sender have a track record for sending you quality?

If you do not doubt the honesty, integrity, loyalty and motivation of the sender then move to next part of the process — the verification

2: Verification and Fact Check

Remember: Transparency should be your goal

Do not be fooled by omission. What was not said in the press release ?
Report what you know to be true  — this will mean verifying all  the facts.
It is surprising how many errors are sent in press releases, even from the most competent publicists.
Some inaccuracies might be just slips, mishaps or blunders. Others might be misspellings or typos. All these can make your work look shoddy if they are duplicated.
Others mistakes can be quite serious and might even damage the reputation of your blog/zine if they’re not put right.

  • Check the band’s social pages.
  • Check their biographies on their website.
  • Check the record label’s take.

It depends how much time you have got, but at the very least, check out who’s who and what’s what

3: Keep an open mind

Do not be tempted to be arrogant about your knowledge. Never assume anything. Especially, never assume that you are right.

I once had a report to write about a military band called the Royal Welch Fusiliers. [ Yeah, I know. Not exactly rock eh?  But it pays the bills.)  Anyway, I wrote the story but I decided to spell the name of the band “the Royal WELSH Fusiliers.”  Why?  because I was arrogant and I thought that the PR had made a simple spelling error. After all, there was no such place as Welch-land was there?  Boing!  Wrong!  I was sent a snotty letter by the bandmaster who pointed out that the band had been called the Royal Welch Fusiliers since 1702 and they didn’t think much of me changing their name at this late stage.

So, my advice is: Check over, check-under, check-around and then re-check the story

Make sure that you — of all people — understand the story that you’re gonna write.

There is a famous rule that you should never print beyond what you know

4: Do your own work

The best fact is the fact that you found out yourself. Because you trust yourself, don’t you?

All the other so-called “facts” need to be verified [See #2 above]
Likewise, the best story is the one that you developed yourself…
So, if you receive a story from someone else, you cannot vouch for it until you have done the work outlined above.

And, please, once you are ready to write, use your own words

Yes, you can use quotes [recognize and acknowledge your sources] but your wordsmithery and journalistic craftsmanship should shine through!

Good Luck.

@neilmach 2016 ©
Neil Mach is editor of RAW RAMP MAGAZINE
Member of the European News Agency, Music Industry Forum, Music Industry Network and regular blogger and contributor to several sites

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